Tag Archives: employee engagement

Three Low Cost Ways to Improve Customer Service

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Recently in a LinkedIn  group, one of the members asked the following question: “The global economy is slowing down, but you’ve been asked to do the impossible: Control costs AND improve customer service experience. How can you do it?” While I commented within the group, LinkedIn limited the space allowed for the response so I wanted to elaborate here.

Here are three low cost ways that have worked for me in improving customer service.

Create a Customer Satisfaction Investigation (CSI) team. Isn’t it criminal to take a customer’s money and then not deliver to meet his expectations?  This team, with at least one representative from every department, should meet at least once a week to review customer feedback.  Like a CSI team, the purpose of the team is to review all the details of each negative customer experience to see if they can find out why it happened. If you do not have a survey process, ask your employees to document and forward any complaint to the CSI team. For every customer who complains, 26 others didn’t say anything (Lee Resource, Inc.) and simply walked away. No one can afford that kind of customer churn. Once identified, work fast to eliminate the dissatisfier. You cannot begin to satisfy customers until you remove all the potential dissatisfiers. You have got to remove them from negatively affecting future customer experiences.

Continually remind your team of the importance of customer service. One of my favorite quotes is from Samuel Johnson, “People need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed.” Day One and Done customer service training is simply not enough. It’s amazing how much of the first day of new hire orientation is spent on defining the rules and restrictions, usually required by the legal department, that, if not followed, will result in termination. While that information is important, consider the overall message you are giving new employees at the end of their first day. Balance the message by describing the empowerment processes that employees can use to exceed customer expectations and offer specific stories when employees went above and beyond for your customers. After onboarding, continue to reinforce that message with customer service tips and stories via email, screensaver messages, and periodic refresher customer service training. As many of the luxury hotel chains and fine dining restaurants known for delivering consistently exceptional service, conduct a fifteen-minute daily briefing that reinforces your brand’s core values and service standards.

Recognize and celebrate those who deliver great customer service. Too often managers focus on identifying an employee’s service deficiencies. These “areas that need improvement” are usually only conveyed to the employee at the annual performance review. Instead celebrate throughout the year the stories of employees who have created WOW moments for their customers. Create a booklet of customer service stories to be distributed on Day One of your onboarding process. Every new employee is a sponge of company information on the first day. Let them soak in the stellar reputation of your company as built by your customers’ perceptions of your employees’ exceptional service.  To reinforce that Day One feeling, frequently post or distribute via email the positive customer comments. Send a handwritten thank you note to the home of the individual employees who created a memorable moment for one of your customers. You can be assured they will share proudly that note with their family. If you want your employees to make it a habit to deliver outstanding customer service, you have to make it a habit to thank them when they do.

When you systematically remove the potential dissatisfiers, continually remind your employees of the importance of customer service, and habitually recognize and celebrate the stories of exceptional service you will increase dramatically the value of service as perceived by your customer.

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Filed under Customer Experience, Customer Satisfaction, Leadership, Training

Leadership Mantra for New Managers: Connect. Inspire. Empower.

Leader and teamwork“How long employees stay at a company, and how productive they are there, is determined by the relationship they have with their immediate supervisor.” Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, The Leadership Challenge

When I served as a hotel GM, I had the opportunity to promote many front-line employees to their first management position. My commitment to them did not end at giving them a new title. That’s the easy part. More importantly, I needed to make sure they succeeded in their first leadership role. According to Kouzes and Posner, these managers supervising the staff who were directly interacting with our guests had as much, if not more, impact than I did on employee engagement and subsequent customer satisfaction. And while each new manager displayed strong interpersonal skills that served them well to earn the promotion, managing people requires a different set of skills. We all know of an all-star employee who failed as a manager. So my advice to any first-time manager is to live this leadership mantra: Connect. Inspire. Empower.

Connect.

“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” John C. Maxwell

Before making any major changes as a new manager, take the time to get to know your direct reports. Find out their personal and career aspirations. Then work hard to help them achieve their goals.  Talk to each member every day. Visit the break area regularly just to chat. Get to know what they like to do outside of work. Given the opportunity, meet their significant others and family. Celebrate your employees’ birthdays and anniversaries. They know when they are scheduled on their birthdays and the date they started working at your business. You should, too. Remember that without involvement there is no commitment. If you are not involved with them, then they simply won’t be committed to you.

Inspire.

“Yesterday’s idea of the boss, who became the boss because he or she knew more than the person working for them, is yesterday’s manager. Tomorrow’s person leads through a vision, a shared set of values, a shared objective.” Jack Welch

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather give them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”  Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Communicate everything you can to your associates. The more they know, the more they care. Once they care, there is no stopping them.”  Sam Walton

Your business has a mission statement. As a leader, you should have a passion statement. The best managers are passionate about what they do. Frankly, if you are not passionate about what you do, you have no right to manage others. That said, be sure to express your passion to your people. What do you envision for the business? The owner or senior manager has a vision for the business. What is yours? Let your people know. Once they see and share your “big picture”, then every step your people take will be in that direction.

Keep your passion statement short. Say it often. Make it stick. Your message cannot be mentioned only at new hire orientation. You must continually and consistently express your vision.

Empower

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”  Theodore Roosevelt

Create a work environment where everyone has the necessary tools and are encouraged to take care of the customer. Ritz-Carlton permits every employee to spend up to $2000 making any single guest satisfied. It is no wonder that the brand is perceived by its guests as simply one of the best. For your team to embrace the idea that you are empowering them to do whatever it takes to satisfy the customer, you must establish and explain any guidelines. It could be as simple as the Nordstrom Rules:

Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.

Most likely your guidelines will be a little more conditional, but whatever you decide, make sure you define and cite examples for your team. And continue to monitor, recognize and reward those employees who do take action.

Connect with your people. Inspire them. Then empower them.  This is not a one-time thing. It is an everyday thing. And when you live this mantra, you will be an involved leader with an engaged team, all intent on delivering the very best experience for your customer.

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The M and M of Employee Engagement

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Management is no longer merely a task oriented discipline. To be a successful manager, not only do you need to effectively direct your employees, you need to have them understand their role in the bigger picture of the company’s image to your customers. Your customers are not a captive audience. They do not need to do business with you. You have to create a reason why they want to do business with only you. The only tangible difference between you and your competitor is not your product or service you sell, but rather the service that your employees provide your customers during their interaction. The success of your business rests on your staff’s ability to encourage return business as a result of superior customer service.

Ultimately customer satisfaction begins with employee satisfaction. Yet too often management overlooks the day-to-day contributions employees make to the business. One of the top reasons why employees leave a company is not because of the rate of pay. It is because they felt they did not get recognized for their efforts. At the same time, your employees will only deliver the level of service that they have experienced within your business. With that in mind, you must ensure that your employees understand their key role in the success of your business and are recognized for their efforts. In order to accomplish this, incorporate in your management style these two M’s – Motivation and Maintenance.

Motivation

Motivation begins with the hiring process and continues through training. During the interview, you should explain to the prospective employee the critical “key role” in maintaining the highest level of customer courtesy. Thereafter, insure that each new employee goes through an extensive training program that not only includes the tasks of their job, but also the vision and specific proven performance tips to deliver your expectation of customer service.

This orientation sets the tone of your company’s commitment to the customer and reinforces the “key role” concept you discussed in the hiring interview. Continue on-the-job instruction with a designated trainer. The key criterion for the selection of your trainer should be an outgoing, friendly character which captures what you want to project as your company’s personality. Be sure that the trainer is aware of your expectations of the delivery of the customer service performance standards.

Keep your employees informed. The #1 complaint employees have of their company is the lack of communication. They want to feel that they are “in the know”. Conduct regular meetings to inform the staff of the status of the business and its forecasted future. Be honest with them. To create a customer focused culture, distribute and post thank you letters or testimonials received from customers. Consider maintaining a Facebook page specifically for your employees that would periodically remind them of their focus on customer service. That page can serve as an advertisement of the company culture for prospective employees. Your employees will be more concerned about their job performance if they are more aware of their business.

Acknowledge your employees as members of your professional family. Recognize special dates or occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, family births, or illnesses. Birthdays are very important as your employees know that they are working on their birthday and expect their manager to know, as well. Announce these so everyone knows and send the appropriate cards or flowers. Organize pot luck luncheons or picnics, holiday dinners, or even baby showers. Remember that if you show special consideration for your employees, they, in turn, will take better care of your customers and your business.

Create recognition programs. Special appreciation such as Random Acts of Kindness Awards, given to employees who are named by your customers as offering stellar service instill in the recipients a sense of pride that their contributions have been recognized by you. A commendation letter delivered via mail to an employee’s home or a gift card for dinner with their family serve to have the employee’s family understand and appreciate the employee’s commitment to your business.

Utilize inexpensive motivational tools. Hang a mirror in the office with a sign above it that says; “Smile, You Are (Your Company’s Name.) This conveys that each employee’s appearance is a reflection of your business. Stamp paychecks with morale boosters. Put up posters that depict themes of success and teamwork. Successories and Baudville are two companies that offer such products to deliver great motivational messages.

Maintenance.

Maintenance, in this sense, is synonymous with consistency. The continuation of any of the programs you start is essential. Do not begin a special program only to drop it soon after your employees come to appreciate it and look forward to it. If you begin a newsletter bulletin board, posting the names of new employees, employee birthdays and anniversaries, promotions, customer appreciation letters, and in-house activities then you must maintain it monthly with current topics.

Visible management is essential. Practice the “Inspect What You Expect” and “Management by Walking About” credos. Follow up on your training programs. Retrain your employees with any updated techniques, as well as a refresher course on customer service. Conduct employee surveys or better yet, hold regular group discussions with a small number of your staff, to get maximum input and participation from each employee. Be visible and be available to your employees.

Ultimately, your employees drive customer satisfaction. Do not take for granted the immense impact a concerned, vital group of employees can do to enhance the image and success of your business. Whether it is through recognition programs or your visible management, your employees must sense and believe in your conviction that they are your competitive edge – the reason why customers will return to your business.

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